An architectural gem on a South Kent hilltop
By Randy O’Rourke
On an unmarked dirt road in South Kent, the house is hidden high up on a hill. Ascend the curvy, quarter-mile-long driveway, and you see a contemporary wooden frame that blends seamlessly with the trees and the view—one of the most majestic in Litchfield County, overlooking the undulating Berkshire Mountains and glistening Hatch Pond.
“We came up here and said, ‘yesss,’” says Charmian Place, a former interior design director for Ennead Architects in Manhattan. “The first thing I said was, ‘It has to be contemporary. It can’t just be a glass box. It has to incorporate nature,” she says, from the pebbled terrace with sweeping views of the sun setting over a scene so serene, you almost forget about the house.
There are trellises bordering almost every exterior wall, enabling perennial kiwi vines to grow toward impressive copper roofs. Then she opens a door, one of many floor-to-ceiling mahogany masterpieces that, on their own, draw awe. The whole home is decked beautifully but subtly, with various natural woods, yacht-like cabinetry, and stone. “Serene and sophisticated, yet laid back and livable,” she says of the open floor plan that offers an easy flow between rooms.
She and her husband, financier and philanthropist Kenneth Cooper, built the 4,600-foot home on 41 acres in 2004. The two are very involved in various local causes—Ken giving much time and resources to the Kent Memorial Library and Kent Land Trust. The couple enlisted the help of architects Tomas Rossant of Ennead Architects and John Allee of Lakeville. “They are geniuses,” she says, swirling a glass of French cabernet she retrieved from the “passive” wine cellar, a term that means the space requires no heating, cooling, or humidity control because it’s built into the earth.
While Place did most of the interior decorating, her husband managed the basement, meaning not only the wine cellar and fitness room, but the entire HVAC system. “This is where Kenny comes in,” she says, lifting a barbell. “He’s incredibly useful.”
“The house is contemporary, but it’s warm,” Place remarks, gliding between spaces that include four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, generous closets, and giant window views. “Every room, every space, there are no extraneous places to heat or cool or clean.” They can even set the heat or air conditioning, anywhere, from a smartphone. Bookshelves and built-ins abound, with recessed lighting that can be angled as desired, highlighting the couple’s collection of museum-quality art. “You can live in your own happiness,” Place remarks. “It can be very social, or very solitary, depending on what you want.”
High-end appliances and a huge black granite center island make the kitchen a favorite hangout, but guests are also lured into the adjacent porch and dining room. The master bedroom at the end of the main floor hall is dreamy. It’s like an airplane view, with the Bulls Bridge Golf Course and South Kent School off in the distance. “The view is amazing, but my favorite things about the master bedroom are the his and her closets, and the his and her bathrooms,” Place remarks with a grin. “The whole layout is essential for a happy marriage.”